John Cena weighs in on WWE's recent mass releases, thinks the company did a bit of defensive hiring

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John Cena gives his take on WWE’s recent mass releases.

Since the early 2000s, John Cena has been a part of WWE and has seen the company head in several different directions business-wise. The topic of mass releases came up while Cena was a guest on The Rich Eisen Show and he recalled being with the company when mass releases were an occurrence that happened at certain periods throughout the calendar year.

Cena said at one point, those mass releases stopped, WWE began to stack talent and now they’re back to doing the mass releases.

As for WWE’s hiring strategy prior to their cuts over the past several years, Cena believes a bit of defensive hiring was done. He’s sad to see individuals lose their jobs and no longer be able to work for a company that they once called home.

Well okay, there’s a lot to unpack there. I will say this: When I started in the WWE, the WWE had just absorbed WCW and ECW and the — and also had two developmental territories and the rosters were abundant is probably a good word so, when I started in the WWE, there were releases twice a year and it created stakes for developmental talent and it created stakes for talent to try to make a name for themselves because we just knew. We knew that on a calendar year, shortly after WrestleMania and either before or after the holidays, there would be cuts. There always were and that seemed to stop, man, right around when we really began to redefine ourselves with our new school — I’ll say the Ruthless Aggression-era style of characters; me, Brock . When those guys began to anchor in and develop the program going forward into the next decade and more and we started to expand our reach, we started having more programming, the talent rosters started to get big and then it became — I think a lot of it, WWE’s hiring strategy, I think a lot of it — and this is, once again, I’m not thinking for the WWE. This is just me posing a different perspective. I think a lot of it might have been a little slightly defensive hiring because there was and still is a giant boom right now in sports-entertainment. People are absorbing this content, they’re engaging. You know, people are making a name for themselves outside of the WWE. It’s no longer a one-stop shop so I think with this flux of passionate people who love sports-entertainment, people do get a name for themselves outside of WWE and if the WWE feels maybe that they can be a fit in that world, they’re gonna try to give that person a shot. They’re also really — they’re really bullish on continuing to hire new talent so the NXT Performance Center is I don’t wanna say overwhelmed, but they’re at max capacity so you have all of these performers and a lot of them aren’t getting a chance to perform and I think that’s the real frustrating thing, both to the WWE and from a stance of a performer and unfortunately, at the end of the day, it is a business and I remember when I started in the WWE, I wanna use the word ‘fortunate.’ I was fortunate enough to be at the show in Atlanta when Stone Cold Steve Austin was fired and that moment right there, it shot through me like a cannon because I got the impression that if they could fire Stone Cold Steve Austin, unless your name was Vince McMahon, everyone is replaceable and I think a lot of the frustration from the audience out there is they view sports-entertainment like I do.

I love watching matches, I love seeing potential in human beings. I love seeing potential in performers and I see potential in everybody, especially when people begin to define what they would call a gimmick or a personality. I love to be able to try to run with it in conversations to see how far we can take it. But there is only so many spots, there is only so much programming and I understand from the business standpoint, the amount of releases that have had to happen. If the company justifies that, ‘Hey, this is the move we’re making. We wanna carry less talent,’ it has very little to do with profit loss margin. If the company strategy is to run on a lean roster, it doesn’t matter, you run on a lean roster. If the company strategy is to run on a fat roster — I remember when we had stacks of performers and the stock price was at seven bucks. It’s just the directive that the company was given to run on a talent-heavy roster or a talent-lean roster and I know obviously this is a touchy subject and it’s gonna elicit perspective from everyone and everyone certainly is entitled to their perspective. I think the sad thing here is people who have this gift aren’t being allowed to use it and people are out of a job and that is the absolute saddest thing that people can no longer work at a company that they called home for a period of time. I feel for everybody who’s had to go in that direction but all of us, myself included, our journey will eventually have an end and when you’re in it, sometimes you don’t have that perspective but I personally, from my early days in the WWE, always had the perspective that it could be over tomorrow for any and all of us because if they can fire Steve Austin, there’s no way I’m even close to his ability and that means that they can fire me but that’s just the culture I was brought up in. I was brought up in biannual cuts and it happened all the time and I just didn’t think we went through — WWE went through such a long period of not releasing anybody and now, they’re kind of getting back into that rhythm again that it is a very abrupt shift to somebody who’s not familiar with that and I do — my heart goes out to everybody who has to get that sad news because it is — that’s a tough conversation to have.

Cena is making the media rounds to promote ‘Peacemaker’. He last wrestled at SummerSlam 2021 and during his current press tour, he stated that he’s not done with WWE by a long shot but is not sure if he’ll be able to make WrestleMania 38.

If the quote in this article is used, please credit The Rich Eisen Show with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcription.

Commenting here and will reference my point that the better lawsuit to file against WWE by MLW is one focused on talent hiring practices and it’s monopolistic behavior.

Picture this: (yes I watched a lot of Yellowstone recently, highest recommendation, it’s Succession in the Midwest)
A rancher has more money than everyone in town. He hires every cowboy for 5-7x avg salary. Nobody can afford that and lose their cowboys. Now rancher who has only product in town sells Crop for 3x. Everyone is stuck with one source. Gotta pay.
Now cowboys get tired of only having one place to work in town. And worse, the ranch now is taking money cowboys make at the card games in town. Overreach with no fair alternative.
Now after a few seasons rancher decides it’s enough and fires half his cowboys. Now competition can’t even afford to hire the staff back. They lost their customers. And the one game in town is ruled a monopoly and laws are made to prevent this behavior.

That’s what happen from 2014-2020 sort of.
One could argue WWE changed strategy because of Global Pandemic (true). One could argue competition flourished more than ever (true). But the heart of the matter is an employment issue. And the timing and how it played into their massive rights contracts by having no competition because of how the acquired talent. Focus on the Talent.

It’s still a Company Man perspective… Despite his framing. In the last two years, while posting record profits during a pandemic the company has fired far too many people.

They’ve depleted their women’s roster and fired too many good talents (i.e. Kieht Lee, Malakai Black, Ruby Soho, Mia Yim, and so many more). Now they’re gutting the PC of coaches while re-orienting their recruitment to inexperienced and non-wrestlers… The firing of coaches while expanding the need for quality coaching will just hurt their product in the long run, impeding their ability to make new stars.

They seem to think that WWE as the brand is the attraction and the talent are the secondary piece of the draw. But, they contradict themselves with stunt booking Goldberg, Lesnar, Edge and now the Women’s Royal Rumble.

It’s exhausting. They’ve lost so much good will and political capital in their own industry that the future is narrowing for them and they won’t see it, until their 50+ audience starts dwindling.

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